Having been on 26 cruises (23 different ships with different lines - Cunard, P & O, Princess, Fred Oslen, RCCL, MSC) we decided to go on a Celebrity Cruise ship after so many excellent reports from people we had met on recent cruises.Therefore our expectations were "high". Our initial impression was very disappointing as the ship lacked that "wow" factor we were expecting to see somewhere on the ship. That initial impression proved correct and our final verdict was that the ship lacked "sophistication" and was rather "bland" in places.
I was most annoyed on opening our cabin door,to find, on the corner of the bed facing the door so you could not miss it, a full page letter starting with "We are contacting you to provide you with information regarding our service recognition process or onboard gratuities" Then giving a guideline list of the tips one is expected to give, per person per day. This totalled approx £200. Then a paragraph stating "If the service has been exceptional and you wish to further reward your service staff,, you may at any time request an additional gratuity form at Guest Relations Desk that will allow you to add any additional amount at your discretion" And so I did what I always do on other ships and go down to Guest Relations and "opt out" of this blanket approach to tipping so that I can give to exactly who I want to. I am generous by nature but deplore this modus operandi.
On the penultimate night, there in our cabin was a bundle of five envelopes in a covering wrapper listing who should get the tips and how much. Who was the Assistant Chief Housekeeper!!!! Only one envelope was used - for the stateroom 2 guys - who had already written in handwriting "Please hand this envelope to ..(me)......Thank you very much" And so I got much pleasure in seeing the surprise and smiles when I gave several tips to those crew members who probably never get them!
So back to the first impression and first afternoon. I instantly became aware as we walked around the ship discovering the layout, that where-ever we went, inside or outside, up a deck down a deck, there was constant, insufferable, irritating, tuneless piped music (musak we used to call it).And that went on day after day night after night, early morning. So you can imagine being docked at some of the most beautiful scenic areas with the beauty of the Fjords, the mountains, the tranquility we were seeing - sitting outside on the delightful open dining area (breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea) with this irritating piped music constantly in the background. Whilst most of the time it was not loud, anyone with average hearing was bothered by it..( Including the crew, officers and guests - very many of whom I spoke to about it).The music was soul-less, repetitive (often just two or four chords played up to 20 or 30 times with drums ). Halfway through the second week I made a formal complaint. Also I did ask one crew member to turn if off or down so we could admire the view in peace (Geiranger)...he did so and within about 4 minutes someone had turned the volume up again! This annoying feature alone would deter me from going on another Celebrity cruise especially as I was told that it is Company policy to play this piped music everywhere, every day....That is a WOW factor I can do without thank you.
It is a large ship holding some 2,800 passengers and we had almost full capacity, With no gimmicks like ice rinks, climbing walls, water slides, there was lots of space for everyone for find an uncrowed spot somewhere, regardless of the weather. The whole ship was spotlessly clean and the crew were indeed the friendliest of any ship we have been on. This included the Officers, Cruise Director (who was very visible and approachable) Entertainers etc.
We were told we had confirmed table seating for two in the main dining room, but when we went there the first night we were on a table for six. We did not want that so went up to the buffet with a promise that we would have a table for two the next evening. We used our table the next night but never went back because our table was just 9 inches from the next table and the lady on that table, as charming as she was, never stopped talking to us throughout the 2 1/2 hours. No way could I stand that every night!! .We had all our meals in the excellent buffet on Deck 14 where the food was probably the best we have had on board ship with an immense variety of dishes.
With regard to the Entertainment, this was extremely good, ranging from the usual dancers and singers, comedians, vocalists etc. However, I was very disappointed with the live music elsewhere on the ship; at no time during the whole 14 days did we have any classical music event. In fact I only heard three "popular" classical pieces during the entire trip...and I went to every show. Apart from a couple of bands and and an accordianist/violin duo, there was not one solo pianist, despite a lovely white grand piano in the attractive Cellar Bar, with its very comfortable furnishings; nor in the very beautiful Ensemble Lounge, nor the Sky Observation Lounge, which also had grand pianos. I was told by one senior crew member, it was due to "cutbacks" . So unless you listened to the occasional band playing in one of these lounges, you had the irritating piped music instead!!! What an option!
I like playing table tennis when on board as it is a great way to meet people. Most unusually, the two tables (sometimes three) were inside on Deck 4 and although the area often got busy with guests going to or from the Theatre, at least we were able to play from 9.30 - 4 regardless of the weather. More often than not, table tennis tables are on outside decks and open to all the elements.
We did three excursions and were pleased with the pre-arranged itinerary. Like all other cruise ships, they never tell you that you can get a local Sight-Seeing bus from directly outside the ship, as was the case in four ports of call. These are much better value and the advantage of hop on and off can be really worthwhile.
Both Embarkation and Disembarkation were very easy, no hanging about and on time. Brilliant.
In Summary, it was one of the best cruises we have done and although my wife would gladly go again on the same ship, I would need to be convinced that the policy of "piped" music has been changed so that at least some areas of the ship remained silent and peaceful and some classical music and pianist would be a must.